St. Patrick's Day traditions and culture

By CNN Staff

Published March 15, 2019

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St. Patrick's Day is full of traditions. But do you know where they came from? Here's a look at the holiday, celebrated every March 17th.

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St. Patrick

He is the patron saint of Ireland, but he was actually Scottish. He was captured as a teen and taken to Ireland, where he was enslaved.

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He converted to Christianity during this time and had prophetic dreams about saving Ireland. After he was ordained a bishop, he preached and converted Irish pagans.

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But he didn't actually drive away snakes from the country, as legend has it. That's because there were never any snakes in Ireland to begin with.



St. Patrick is said to have used a three-leaf clover to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagans of Ireland.

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St. Patrick is known as one of the great Catholic missionaries. Traditionally in Ireland on this day, people attend church in the morning and pray for missionaries.

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Drink up!

The holiday often falls during Lent, when many Christians fast. However, Irish Christians take exception to drink, dance and feast in traditional celebration.

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Although Irish people traditionally wear the colors of the Irish flag (green, white and orange), the rest of the world has embraced wearing green.



The first St. Patrick's Day parade held in New York was organized by Irish colonists in 1762, 14 years before the Declaration of Independence was signed.

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Green water

Chicago began dyeing its river green to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in 1964. Today, it uses food coloring, which is environmentally safe, to turn the river green.

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The White House -- and many community centers across the country -- will dye the water in their fountains green to commemorate the holiday.

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The traditional holiday meal in Ireland is bacon and cabbage. But in much of the rest of the world, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated with corned beef.

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This mischievous icon can be traced back to Ireland's pagan roots, which included belief in supernatural beings such as fairies.

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